Wisconsin singer-songwriter Trapper Schoepp – a rising heartland rocker whom Bob Dylan graced with a co-writing credit after Schoepp put music to some early Zimmerman lyrics about the Dairy State for “On Wisconsin” – is nearing the release of his new album, Primetime Illusion, on Jan. 25. But ahead of that, he’s premiering a video for “What You Do to Her,” a punchy, harmonica-driven slice of spirited Americana, featuring the indomitable Nicole Atkins, that presents a candid take on a difficult topic.
“This song is about the epidemic of sexual assault and the ripple effects these attacks can have within communities. The verses tell the story of someone who gets away with it and the chorus shows how we’re all affected by this – not only the victims, but their families, their friends, and the community as a whole,” Schoepp says. “For too long men have stood on the sidelines and allowed this to become primarily a women’s issue. I think everyone has an obligation to call out behavior like this. It’s one thing to show solidarity behind the scenes but we need to be more vocal as men.”
Animated by 23-year-old Milwaukee artist Casey Hoaglund, the minimalist video artfully doubles down on the song’s message. With imagery of swirling eyes and hair that brings to mind ’60s San Francisco poster art, the video is as arresting as it is impactful.
“Creating the video was empowering for myself, and, hopefully, the other women that see it,” Hoaglund says. “Opening with the morphing faces of different anonymous women is meant to represent the fact that anyone can be a victim of this. Odds are at least one person in our day-to-day lives has been a victim of rape. The culture is shifting surrounding the issue, and the shapeshifting of the various subjects are meant to portray that as well. Repeated use of the eye plays into this because the people who commit these acts against women cannot hide anymore. Society sees them, and it needs to end.
“A big thank you goes to Trapper Schoepp for working together with me to create this video, and all the men and women standing up against sexual assault,” she says. “The video is for the women who feel like they can’t come forward and is meant to empower them. It is to let them know they’re not alone. There are people who hear and support them.” Victims of sexual and interpersonal violence can contact RAINN, 24/7, at www.rainn.org or 800.656.HOPE and be connected to local resources.
From divorce to AIDS/HIV, the album addresses a variety of salient subjects with lyrics than span the personal and the universal. And Atkins isn’t the only indie scene mainstay involved in Primetime Illusion – Wilco’s Pat Sansone produced the album, which was recorded in Milwaukee in record time.
“Trapper was a very hard worker, and we got a lot done in a relatively short time in the studio together,” Sansone says. “I assumed that we would need to schedule some additional time possibly in my studio in Nashville to finish up some vocals and overdubs, but in reality we got it all done in those 10 days in Milwaukee…. And Trapper’s band, including his brother Tanner Schoepp, worked really hard and had a great vibe in the studio.”
Sansone was first introduced to the singer-songwriter five years ago, when he checked out Schoepp’s opening slot for The Jayhawks in Chicago on the recommendation of his friend, Tom Lunt. “I remember really being taken with Trapper’s passion and natural presence on stage,” Sansone – who jammed with Schoepp at a Wicker Park bar later that night — recalls.
A few years later, Schoepp asked Sansone to work with him on a project. “I was flattered and intrigued by the fact that Trapper sought me out to work on this music with him,” Sansone says, noting that he chose 10 songs from a list of 30 or so Schoepp sent him. “I also appreciated that he was very open to being ‘produced.’ We talked a lot about the fact that my strengths as a producer often involve getting involved with the structure of the songs, and I wanted to make sure that he was prepared to have me get in there and tinker around with the shape of the songs themselves,” he says. “All in all the album was a joy to make for me.”
On Jan. 25, Primetime Illusion will become a reality when it’s released on Xtra Mile Recordings.